Hundreds of years ago the roads of Britain were thronged with pilgrims, many going on perhaps the longest journey of their lives. While the spiritual life of the island of Britain may have moved on since then, it’s still criss-crossed by the routes these people took. If you want to make your next motorhome tour even more special how about turning it into your own motorhome-based pilgrimage? Visiting one of the many sacred sites still to be found in our stunning landscape is the perfect way to reconnect with ourselves and our past. Read our guide to exploring Britain’s Pilgrim Routes in your motorhome and begin your own ‘spiritual journey’.
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What are Britain’s Pilgrim Routes?
From the famous shrine of St Thomas Becket at Canterbury to more humble sacred places such as holy wells or hermit caves, there are countless pilgrimage sites across Britain. And just like today, pilgrims of yesteryear travelled in many different ways and sought many different things from their journeys. Many travelled across the country searching for a miraculous cure or the completion of a penance. While others, perhaps, were just seeking a bit of fun and adventure away from the pressures of everyday life.
Fortunately for the modern motorhome owner, many of these destinations aren’t far from modern roads and campsites. They also take in the very best the British landscape has to offer and some truly amazing sights, sounds and smells. From the rolling hills of the Cotswolds and the wild and rugged Cornish coastline, to windswept Scottish moors and Wild Welsh mountains, you’re sure to encounter beauty and adventure wherever you go – whether you have a particular religious faith or none. Just make sure you’ve got motorhome insurance in case of any eventualities!
Britain’s best Pilgrim Routes
- Best for feeling what it means to be a pilgrim - The Ridgeway - 85 miles - seven to eight days
Dubbed the oldest road in Europe, archaeologists believe the Ridgeway has been in continuous use for over 5,000 years. Today this national trail wends its way through tree -lined paths along two of southern England’s greatest chalk escarpments. Tap into the lives of those who rode the crest of the Chiltern Hills and the North Wessex Downs in the distant past. From soldiers and traders to pilgrims and day trippers, from the Neolithic era to the modern day, enchantment and adventure await.
Begin your journey gazing across Aylesbury Vale from the desolate vantage point of Ivinghoe Beacon. Before discovering the story of St George and the Dragon at Iron Age hillfort Uffington Castle, and the mysterious prehistoric long barrow of Wayland’s Smithy. Believed to be the workshop of a Norse blacksmith god you could even light a candle or make an offering here, if you’re so inclined. The largest stone circle in the world at Avebury is a fitting end to your trip into Britain’s other world.
Remember when on a pilgrimage it’s more than just a process of getting from A to B. When you’re standing among the ancient stones at Avebury try to be fully present in the moment!
But for those with less time, the British Pilgrimage Trust suggests a six mile, one-day circular pilgrimage around Uffington Castle.
Where to stay: For a beautiful but back-to-basics approach give Oxford Oak Camping a whirl. Be warned there are no hardstanding pitches or electric hook-ups here. But the owners are very friendly and there are fabulous views of the Uffington White Horse and the Ridgeway. This family site is located just behind Farmer Gow’s Activity Farm – perfect for the kids.
- Best for ‘seeing the signs’ on a spiritual journey - The John Bunyan Trail - 86 miles - eight days
It’s all too easy for the casual visitor to the unassuming county of Bedfordshire to miss much of what’s on offer. Sandwiched between the satellite towns of London and the Midlands, the area can seem beset by sprawling suburbs. But if you’re open-minded and happy to travel down the unexplored avenues that life sends you then this modern pilgrimage trail could be right for you.
One of the area’s most famous sons is the 17th Century blaspheming tinker turned Nonconformist preacher John Bunyan. Having fought for Parliament during the English Civil War he was imprisoned during Charles II’s reign for his preaching. It was during his 12 years in jail that he began his most famous work 'The Pilgrim's Progress'.
This circular route takes you through the life and times of Bunyan, his masterpiece, and Bedfordshire’s stunning landscape. Marvel at the Chiltern Hills, the Sharpenhoe Clappers and the many scenic villages. But as Bunyan would have said, it’s all about the journey – not the destination. That’s the great thing about pilgrimages in a motorhome; you can end up in some unexpected places!
Where to stay: Just outside the pleasant town of Bedford is Camping and Caravanning Club’s CS Tithe Farm. If you’re looking for a quiet and peaceful stay on a working farm then this is it.
- Best for diving deep into the pilgrimage story - Walsingham Way - 37 miles - three days
Inspired by the story of one of Europe’s once busiest pilgrimage sites, the recently waymarked Walsingham Way uses a network of pilgrimage routes to guide you to this beautiful location. The shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in north Norfolk was created in 1061 after the Virgin Mary appeared to a pious English noblewoman.
Over the years the shrine became one of England’s greatest religious centres (even rivalling Glastonbury and Canterbury) and was visited by many of England’s kings and queens seeking Mary’s favour. That was until the reign of Henry VIII when the shrine and its surrounding buildings were destroyed during the English Reformation.
Where to stay: If you want to undertake a pilgrimage to ‘England’s Nazareth’, there are few better places to start than the Green Man Inn. Located just outside the village of Little Snoring (yes, really) this rural campsite is attached to a 19th Century inn. If that’s not enough to tempt you, it’s also just 30 minutes’ drive from Cromer beach and several nature reserves.
- Best for becoming more aware of your companions - The Becket Way - 90 miles - 11 days
Motorhome holidays are a wonderful way for family and friends to become closer. And when you’re on a pilgrimage the question of who you are travelling with and what you mean to each other is a very important one to consider. Undoubtedly one of the most well-known groups of pilgrims in British history is that characterful gang contained in Geoffrey Chaucer’s work ‘The Canterbury Tales’. These 30 fictional pilgrims gathered at the Tabard Inn in Southwark before travelling to the shrine of the murdered archbishop Thomas Becket in faraway Canterbury. They agreed to a story telling contest and thus a literary masterpiece was born!
While you might not become part of such an iconic work, you’ll undoubtedly see much beauty on your travels. Highlights include Southwark Cathedral and the sights of London, Lesnes Abbey and its Mulberry tree, the Darenth Valley and historic Rochester Cathedral. Not to mention the stunning beauty of Canterbury Cathedral. To avoid any disappointment, be aware the original shrine to Becket was destroyed by Henry VIII in 1538.
If you’ve got more time or want an alternative route back from Canterbury then the 153-mile Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester to Canterbury is also beautiful.
Where to stay: After such a long journey you’ll be looking for a perfectly peaceful place to rest your weary pilgrim’s feet. Cobbs Meadow Caravan CL is a lovely, small site close to Canterbury that’s ideal for rest and relaxation.
- Best for becoming one with the landscape - Anglesey Pilgrimage - 80 miles - seven days
With echoes of the truly distant past, this pilgrimage from Caernarfon on the Welsh mainland across the Menai Bridge to Anglesey will soon have you feeling at one with the landscape. Sites such as the prehistoric chambered cairns and timeless stones of Bryn Celli Ddu and Barclodiad y Gawres will leave you in awe of this strange and wonderful faraway place. Anglesey’s spectacular coastline, with its snaking paths, crashing waves, silent pools and holy immersion wells will undoubtedly leave you mesmerised. Until you reach Holy Island itself and the beautiful 13th Century St. Cybi’s Church.
Where to stay: Hafod-Y-Plas is a small, peaceful, family-run site on a working dairy farm near Rhoscolyn on Anglesey. A great way to get back to nature.
- Best for where heaven and earth touch - Glastonbury Water Way - 55 miles - six days
It’s believed that Glastonbury Tor has been a pilgrimage for the inhabitants of Britain for more than 10,000 years. This pilgrimage route was devised in 2020 by the British Pilgrimage Trust and has a distinctive watery feel linking the ancient spa town of Bath to the mineral springs at the foot of Glastonbury Tor. So, whether you’re a firm believer in the power of ley lines or simply wish to submerge yourself in the contemplative feeling that this route brings, this is a great idea for a pleasant trip.
Highlights include bathing in the natural thermal springs at Bath, wild river swimming near Frome, the mighty Wells Cathedral and the sacred landscape around Glastonbury Tor. Staring up at this mystical site it's hard not to feel touched by something from another realm entirely.
Where to stay: The award-winning, adults-only Wells Touring Park has 60 hard standing pitches and all you need for a tranquil stay. Within walking distance of historic Wells and the stunning Mendip Hills.
- For reconnecting with the eternal - St Andrews Circuit - 3 ½ miles - four hours
As home to some of the most spectacular British landscapes it’s no wonder there are some beautiful pilgrimage routes in Scotland. Some of the best on offer have historic St Andrews as their destination. There are now ten great pilgrim ways wending their way quietly through Scotland’s jaw-dropping landscape to St Andrews.
A popular pilgrim starting point is Edinburgh but others include Aberdeen and even the Isle of Iona over on the west coast. Some of these pilgrimages such as the 173-mile St Columba’s Way or the 326-mile St Ninian’s Way require some serious dedication. If you’re looking for something more manageable then this short circuit provides plenty of spots for reflection. Highlights include the Blue Stane of Pictish days and the area's famous beaches (not to mention those amazing golf courses!).
If you’re a golfing enthusiast you might want to pack your clubs for a few rounds. If so, call your motorhome insurance provider to ensure such an expensive item is covered by your insurance. Unfortunately, loss and theft can happen even in the safest of places.
Where to stay: Within easy reach of the town and the golf courses, St Andrews Holiday Park offers unrivalled views and a great stay.
Get motorhome insurance from Motorhome Protect
Embarking on a pilgrimage like the ones we’ve talked about here requires some good preparation. And that means finding protection for your home on wheels. Some of these routes take you into rural areas where a breakdown or accident could cause real problems.
The helpful team at Motorhome Protect are specialists in finding cover from a range of trusted providers, whatever your budget and requirements.
If you are planning on extending your pilgrimage over to the continent then we can arrange unlimited cover across all the countries of the EU. We can offer discounts for motorhome and campervan club members, too. And drivers with previous convictions and claims should also give us a call.
Unlimited mileage cover is on offer alongside cover for personal effects up to £3,500. We’ll even give you six months to complete a self-restoration project if you’re building your own home from home.
Call our experienced team for a motorhome or campervan insurance quote today.
Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.